The idea had been kicking around in his head since 1989, when Paul Biebel finally decided “it was time” to get it going. Even though it was over 20 years ago when he first thought about it, he remembers it like it was yesterday. “First it was the S&L Scandals on Feb 10th, 1989, when Dartmouth Savings Bank declared insolvency. It nearly took us down. Then United Savers, their sister bank, followed several weeks later. That’s when it really hurt. Banks were failing everywhere and the ones that were financing his large construction projects were especially devastating. I was pretty young back then and I wasn’t prepared for it. It wasn’t pretty and my hair went from brown to white in a matter of months. It just passed right by gray! Those banks that didn’t fail still changed their names anyway. Everything suddenly changed and it was a long climb out of a very deep hole. Just as we emerged from that fiasco, Hurricane Andrew struck. Then Desert Storm began. Soon after came the fears of Y2K and 911. Then there was Fanny and Freddy and GM and exploding energy costs and IRAQ, Afghanistan, now Libya, and those drunken sailors we call senators in Washington who are taxing us all into oblivion.” I began to realize that the only thing certain in life was how uncertain life really is. I couldn’t presume anything anymore. It was time to change how I was thinking and how I lived and I realized that I wasn’t alone. Due to a freak Frisbee Golf accident on Easter Day in Tennessee, I was confined to a chair for several months with nothing to do but think. Out of that, emerged Prudent Living, in the fall of 2009. Since then, we have acquired control of all the internet domains of .com, .net, .org, .uk and .co. We have also acquired control of all 50 state extensions.”
“Living Prudently is about much more than building homes,” he says, “but it definitely applies to how we should build them too. Over the last 35 years, we’ve built somewhere around 400 homes if you count every dwelling a home. It gets a little hazy when you try to count multi-family dwellings, condos and independent living apartments. One thing is sure; the science of how we build has changed that way we build everything. We are no longer just building contractors. We are certified Building Energy Practitioners. We can provide any service that relates to sustainable design, building performance and diagnostics and Renewable Energy. We are an in-house provider and a one-stop shop. We employ a large workforce where most of them are certified through NABCEP and the Building Performance Institute (BPI) etc. ”
Then he changes the subject.“Prudent Living is so much more. It’s a way of life, really. It’s about how we think, what we do and how we do it.” Biebel adds, “There’s a paradigm shift happening in our country. I bump into everywhere I go. It’s the mantra of the 21st century. I’ve heard it coming from our President in his speeches. I heard our Governor say it on the radio and I hear it everywhere on the street. It’s time to put our actions where our mind is. I have yet to see it in the personal lives of most of our politicians but they certainly know how to preach it. But I am seeing in on my level. It seems like almost everyone is starting to comprehend that we all have to change the way in which we live. Not only that, there is a sense of urgency that we need to do it now.”
“That’s what prudence is,” Biebel continues, “It’s the opposite of presumption. Prudence thinks ahead and takes responsible action in preparation of what might happen. Prudence assumes nothing and invests carefully into preservation, conservation and payback or ‘Return on Investment’. We know that we can’t presume anything anymore but we also know that the responsibility is ours and the days of someone bailing us out when we get ourselves into trouble are over.”
Modern society has suddenly found itself on the edge of a precipice. Builders everywhere don’t need anyone to tell them that. It’s amazing how something so overheated can go cold so fast. In the course of just a few years, a rapidly growing number of American citizens–even more so, those in Vermont— have realized that we cannot continue on the same old profligate path; the path of consuming too much energy and resources way too fast. Exactly where that path is leading us may not be clear, but it’s clearly nowhere good.
But what to do?
How about resurrecting an old idea–a way of living– espoused by our ancestors: living prudently.
One dictionary defines the word prudent this way: “Planning carefully ahead of time. Being sensible. Characterized by good judgement or good management, as in a prudent policy.”
Biebel thinks the term “prudent living” resonates with people in an innate, fundamental way.
“President Obama used the phrase in a speech last year and people went out immediately and tried to get the name,” he says. But by then, it was gone.
We owned it. When I decided (in 2009) to try to get the prudent living domain, I thought, ‘Somebody will already have it.’ But they didn’t. So now we have prudentliving.com as well as dot-net, dot-org, dot-UK and dot-CO. Recently, we acquired all 50 state domain extensions. This clears the way to expand beyond our 2 hour radius and begin building Prudent Living communities that subscribe to a higher standard than we have been living by. Prudent Living is an expandable market and it affects both services and products. We’re excited and a bit tentative because it is new territory for us.”
More to come in the next post…